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• • • • • Definitions Sources Properties Types of Bitumen Bitumen Handling
Bitumen is a non-crystalline viscous material, black or dark brown, which is substantially soluble in carbon disulphide (CS 2 ), possessing adhesive and water-proofing qualities. It consists essentially of hydrocarbons and would typically comprise at least 80% carbon and 15% hydrogen, the remainder being oxygen, sulphur, nitrogen and traces of various metals. Asphalt is a word with different meanings. In American usage asphalt, or, in full, asphalt cement, is used to mean bitumen (or bitumen binder). In the term 'rock asphalt' it defines a mineral substance that may be impregnated with bitumen or pitch. Outside America the word asphalt means a mixture of bitumen and mineral aggregates laid as a road surface.
Bitumen does occur naturally, but for all intents and purposes it is petroleum on which the world relies for its supplies of bitumen today. The bitumen content of crude can vary between 15% and 80%, but the more normal range is 25% to 40%. In fact the three broad classifications for crude oils are: • • • bitumen based paraffin based bitumen and paraffin based
Depending on the type of crude, bitumen is present either in the form of colloidally dispersed particles or in a true solution. During the refining process, as petroleum oils are taken away by distillation, the proportion of oil to bitumen particles changes. Instead of being dispersed and relatively few in number, the particles become closer to one another and the size of the particles increases. At the point when the distillation process is usually stopped, the petroleum bitumen is a colloidial dispersion of black solids (hydrocarbons), known as asphaltenes, in a dispersion medium, which is an oily brown yellow liquid known as malthene fraction. Also present to act as a stabilizing agent to keep the asphaltenes in suspension are another group of hydrocarbons known as resins. Bitumen is found in nature in several forms, from the hard, easily crumbled bitumen in rock asphalt to the softer, more viscous material found in tar sands and asphalt 'lakes'. It is commonly mixed with varying proportions of mineral or vegetable impurities that need to be extracted before it can be used effectively as an engineering material. However it may be found as an asphaltite, a natural bitumen without impurities that varies in the extent to which it is soluble in carbon disulphide. Natural bitumen occurs, as does petroleum, as the result of the special decomposition of marine debris. It will have been moved over many thousands of years through porous rocks such as limestone or sandstone, often by volcanic action. In some areas notable for their petroleum resources, for example the Middle East, semi-fluid bitumen can be found oozing out of fissures near hot springs or seeping out of the ground. Rock asphalt, with its variable and relatively low content of bitumen, tends to be found away from the places where bitumen is needed. It is costly to move around and to process.
It is important to draw the distinction between bitumen and coal tar. alkalis and salts. It does not contaminate water so it can be used to line watercourses. Cutback bitumens consist basically of bitumen that has been diluted in order to make it more fluid for application. Bitumen can be spread relatively easily in the areas where it is required because it can readily be liquefied by one of three methods: • • • applying beat dissolving it in petroleum solvents dispersing with water (emulsification). Its durability is essential to major engineering projects such as roads and waterways where it must do its job for 20 years or more. As a product it is the most widely used bitumen. Hot bitumen. The cutback varies according to the flux. In bitumen emulsions the basic bitumen has also been diluted in order to facilitate application. Their fluidity depends on the degree of hardness of the bitumen base and the proportion of diluent (or flux) to bitumen. are produced. It also resists action by most acids. It is available at an economic cost virtually all over the world. which makes them ideal for use in roadbuilding. Crude oil processed by the petroleum industry provides all but a small percentage of this vital material. Bitumen is insoluble in water but is soluble in numerous organic solvents. It is a thermoplastic material: it softens and becomes liquid with the application of heat and hardens as it cools. the emulsion can easily be restored by agitation. from the construction of transcontinental highways to the waterproofing of flat roof surfaces. This evaporation is currently regarded as a potentially undesirable characteristic from the point of view of the environment and health and safety. This application requires controlled breaking and . listed below. although it is black and viscous in appearance. Bitumen gives controlled flexibility to mixtures of mineral aggregates which is why so much of the total annual production is used in road building. if they separate in storage. are held in suspension. mainly in road making. Engineering projects in every part of the world. The emulsifier produces a system in which fine droplets of bitumen. The latter is obtained from the carbonisation of coal and. Types of Bitumen There are five major classifications of petroleum bitumen produced by the refining and manufacturing process: Paving grade bitumen (or asphalt cement in American usage) is refined and blended to meet road engineering and industrial specifications that take into account different climatic conditions. They set as the flux evaporates. as rapid curing (RC). it has very different chemical properties. of between 30% and 80% of the volume. kerosene for MC and diesel for SC. medium curing (MC) or slow curing (SC) cutbacks. it can act as an effective sealant. water and emulsifier are processed in a high-speed colloid mill that disperses the bitumen in the water in the form of globules that are normally in the 5-10 micrometre size range but may be even smaller. As it is highly waterproof. They are classified according to the time it takes them to become solid. Bitumen emulsions have a low viscosity and can be workable at ambient temperatures. It may also be considered as the parent bitumen from which the other types. rely on the particular properties of bitumen. so cutback bitumens are looked upon less favourably than the more modem bitumen emulsions. white spirit commonly being used for RC grades. Properties Bitumen's main property is that of a very strong and durable adhesive that binds together a very wide variety of other materials without affecting their properties.
polymers that extend the range of temperatures at which bitumen is worked will enable roadbuilders to work effectively for more months of the year. polymers such as styrene butadiene styrene (SBS). elasticity and/or plasticity. Use of cationic emulsions is therefore increasing. The emulsion must not break before it is laid on the road surface but. Bitumen emulsions are divided into three categories: • • • Anionic with negatively charged globules Cationic with positively charged globules Non-ionic with neutral globules. will contribute towards a longer road life and lower maintenance costs. . resistance to ageing. For example. The first emulsions were the anionics. This diagram gives an indication of relative size The mechanical performance of bitumen emulsions can be tailored like that of other construction materials. Particles of bitumen are dispersed in water to make bitumen emulsions are usually between 5 and 10 micrometres in size. This is an exciting development of growing importance due to the ability of modem technology to satisfy the demands of the bitumen market internationally. The result is a product that softens at a higher temperature than that at which paving grade bitumen softens. in terms of weight and volume. The main grades for bitumen emulsions are classified as follows: Anionic ARS AMS ASS Cationic CRS CMS CSS Rapid setting Medium setting Slow setting The development of bitumen emulsions is an area where technological progress is still being made to meet engineering demands. it should break quickly so that the road can be in service again without delay. including BP. thermoplastic rubbers and ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) are commonly used to modify bitumen and some companies.setting. Industrial bitumen (or oxidized bitumens) are made by blowing air through hot paving grade bitumen. As well as natural rubbers. A modified bitumen that increases the extent to which a road 'bounces back' after being subjected to heavy traffic. It also has more rubberlike properties and its viscosity is much less affected by changes in temperature than is the case with paving grade bitumen. They are currently less favoured than the cationics because the positively charged globules of bitumen coat the aggregates more thoroughly and have greater adhesion. have their own proprietary technology using special polymers or polymer blends. once in place. Modified bitumens are formulated with additives to improve their service performance by changing such properties as their durability.
.Bitumen Handling The four major factors involved in handling bitumen are: • • • • the the the the high handling temperatures and the need for purpose-designed vessels flammable nature of certain grades need to safeguard the health and safety of personnel training of personnel Owing to their high viscosity. even a fleeting touch at 80°C can be expected to burn unprotected skin. most bitumens have to be heated to make them sufficiently fluid for bulk distribution and for application. storing or applying it can cause severe skin burns at the recommended handling temperatures. Contact with bitumen or the equipment involved in transporting. For example.
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